The United Nations appointed Filippe Lazzarini as a new Commissioner-General for UNRWA. Photo via social media
Filippo Lazzarini of Switzerland, who was recently appointed as Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), has been admitted into office from Lebanon’s capital city Beirut due to movement clampdowns slapped over coronavirus outbreaks.
In a Thursday tweet, Lazzarini said: “I take up my new responsibility as Commissioner-General at a moment of unprecedented challenges, including global spread of Covid_19.”
“I look forward to work together with staff, host countries, donors, partners and refugees to protect the rights and future of Palestine refugees”, tweeted Lazzarini.
In a tweet posted on March 31, Lazzarini said: “As of tomorrow, I will start my new function as Commissioner General of UNRWA. It was a great privilege serving Lebanon. Lebanese strong sense of hospitality and solidarity will remain in my heart. In these times of uncertainties, I wish a smooth recovery for the Lebanon you want”.
Last month, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced that Lazzarini will take over from Christian Saunders, the acting Commissioner-General since last November.
Saunders stepped in after the resignation of Pierre Krähenbühl over corruption claims at a time when UNRWA is experiencing its worst financial crisis since it was established in 1949.
The crisis, however, is as much political as financial. Israel has been lobbying for years to have UNRWA closed down in the hope that, by doing so, it would end the Palestinian refugee issue simply be redefining who refugees are.
As part of this campaign against UNRWA, the US administration under Donald Trump suspended all of its donations two years ago.
Palestinian refugees, like all other refugees, have a legitimate right to return to their land. In 1948, Israel ethnically cleansed three-quarters of a million Palestinians from their land.
Millions of them and their descendants are still registered as refugees and receive vital humanitarian aid and basic service provision from UNRWA, which Israel wants to cut entirely.